ASUS Eee PC 901
While we love the hardware and build quality that makes up the ASUS Eee PC 901, we are not exactly fond of the Xandros Linux operating system that powers this notebook. The improvements done by ASUS to this Linux distribution make it very easy to use, but for anyone that has any level of expertise with Linux or even an experienced computer user may find this operating system too limited. ASUS doesn't block access to the terminal or prevent you from adding in additional Debian package repositories, but if you intend on customizing the Xandros installation you might as well switch to the distribution of your choice.
For new users though this Linux configuration is very easy to use with its IceWM-based manager and simple tabs for navigating between the different areas. However, we would have liked to see ASUS use Ubuntu's Netbook Remix for the Eee PC. Ubuntu's Netbook Remix though is easy to install from an existing Ubuntu installation, but perhaps we will see them make the switch for a future model. If you intend on installing a different distribution, you may need to configure the Ralink wireless manually or take other steps in configuring the Eee PC depending upon the distribution. This Xandros OS was shipping with the Linux 2.6.21 kernel and X Server 1.4.1 pre-release.
While ASUS had optimized the interface for its users, it doesn't appear they did too much lower down on the Linux stack. In fact, this Xandros installation was consuming more power than a stock install of Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4 with daily updates as of August 26. Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4 uses the Linux 2.6.26 kernel and X Server 1.5.0 RC5. When the Eee PC 901 was idling and occasionally launching Firefox or the file manager, the battery discharge rate was greater by about 220 mA and under load (using the stresscpu2 test profile) it was also greater and there by about 100 mA. This monitoring was done using the latest Phoronix Test Suite development code.
Ubuntu and GNOME have more aggressive power conservation features than this Eee PC OS when it comes to dimming the display when there the cursor is idle, etc. It's also important to note is that this was with a generic Ubuntu 32-bit installation and we hadn't installed any Atom-optimized packages. When using Intel's PowerTOP you can shave off a bit more power and following other battery optimization tips.
In articles coming up over the next few weeks we will be looking at the ASUS Eee PC 901 performance when the hard drive is fully encrypted compared to no encryption, the Linux performance between different distributions on this Atom hardware, and other benchmarks from this very popular netbook before coming to any final conclusions. So far our only complaints about the ASUS Eee PC 901 is the Xandros operating system being too limited for an experienced Linux user, not being well optimized at all levels of the Linux stack, and perhaps a better experience had they gone with Ubuntu's Netbook Remix. However, when it comes to the hardware, the build quality for this 8.9" computer is great and should prove to be very reliable. The price also isn't bad at about $500 USD.
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